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A backdrive is a component used in reverse to obtain its input from its output. This extends to many concepts and systems from thought based to practical mechanical applications.

Not every system can be backdriven. A DC electrical generator can be implemented by backdriving a DC electric motor, however a worm drive works only in one direction.

Example: A CNC vertical mill has a vertical lead screw on the Z-axis. A low lead screw pitch (i.e. 5 turns per inch or fewer) means when the driving motor power is removed such as by turning the machine off, the weight of the spindle will cause the lead screw to rotate as the spindle motor falls down. Obviously this is a bad thing. The solution to prevent back-driving is to use a finer (higher) lead screw pitch (i.e. 10tpi or greater) or have a locking mechanism.